Windy City Cannabis workers at the Homewood location voted to join the Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Teresa Ramirez-Gonzalez, recorder and organizing director of Local 881, said that 17 workers voted in favor of unionization and three voted “no.” The vote was taken at the Homewood location and not companywide.
“A lot of other dispensaries, they get paid a lot more. And we decided that we do a lot here and we needed more support in that area,” dispensary associate Heavenly Johnson said. “Just having someone be a liaison between us and corporate, I think is a nice thing. Because sometimes you don’t have a voice, especially in such a new industry where everything is so brand new.”
“The workers are tired of being treated poorly. They are looking for better wages (yearly increases), hours, vacation, healthcare and most of all, respect. Workers want to feel safe at the workplace,” Ramirez-Gonzalez said. “I’m excited that the workers will get to sit with collective bargaining and start the process to a contract.”
No negotiations between the union and management have happened yet.
Johnson said the Windy City location in Posen is currently “trying to unionize as well.”
Windy City Cannabis has been in business since 2015. Its Homewood dispensary opened early in 2016. It was originally only for medical cannabis; 2022 is the second year that recreational cannabis has been legal in Illinois.
In 2021, Windy City Cannabis sold its Homewood and Posen locations to Parallel, one of the largest cannabis companies in the United States. Parallel owns dispensaries in Florida, Texas, Nevada, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
Johnson said cannabis dispensaries can have their hands full doing what they need to do to comply with state and federal regulations. She said having a union that’s just focused on the needs of the workers is a good idea.
“When you’re in the field working, you have a different perspective than other people in higher positions,” Johnson said. “We all love working here. We all say this is the best job ever. But if we could just get the politics out of the way, it could really be such a great place to work and feel represented.”
While working for Windy City, Johnson said she meets people from all around the country and the world. She estimates that about 40% of the customers at the Homewood location are from Indiana.
“Sometimes if we’re busy in here, some customers will help other customers place orders. Or if they don’t know anything about products, they’ll help them out,” Johnson said. “You come in and you automatically know you all have one thing in common – and that’s you like to enjoy cannabis. And it can be for so many different reasons. It can be for medical. It can be for pleasure. It can be for hanging out and having a good time.”